Members of the South African Jewish community and supporters of Israel have questioned the ability of President Cyril Ramaphosa to play the role of peace broker in Israel and Palestine, following his declaration of his support for the Palestinian cause.
Ramaphosa spoke at the ANC’s NEC meeting this weekend and said: “Palestinian people have a just struggle and their human rights are being violated.
“We always pledge our solidarity with the Palestinians. Their quest for self-determination is something we’ve always supported.”
He and ANC NEC members wore black and white scarves, declaring support for Palestine.
At an emotionally charged meeting of members of the local Jewish community at Yeshiva College in Johannesburg on Sunday, the SA Zionist Federation’s Rowan Poloski said the government had to start by returning its ambassador to Israel if they were to play a mediatory role.
South Africa had previously offered its mediatory experiences whenever asked.
Chief Rabbi Warren Goldstein said the ANC would be punished by SA’s Jewish community in the 2024 general elections.
“I was asked to stop displaying the South African flag by one of the members of our community, but I refused because I know that many South Africans are supporting and standing with Israel.
“The ANC does not own this country. We should remember this time next year during elections.”
Security at Yeshiva College was tight, as more than 600 people gathered to declare their support for Israel and criticised the government for its decision to continue supporting Palestine. Gareth Cliff, a radio and television personality was the master of ceremonies and pledged his support for Israel.
South African Jewish Board of Deputies’ national chair Professor Karen Milner, criticised South Africa’s position on Israel.
“The government has missed an opportunity to play a meaningful role in the Middle East conflict,” she said.
“Today, when the costs are so high, the South African’s experience of peacekeeping could perhaps have made a difference.
“But in siding with those who wish nothing less than the destruction of the Jewish state, and who murder civilians indiscriminately and shamelessly, there is (little) credibility that the South African government can bring to this,” Professor Milner said.
Parliament this year voted to downgrade diplomatic ties with Israel, and the Economic Freedom Fighters is calling for Pretoria to remove the embassy of Israel to South Africa in Pretoria.
African Christian Democratic Party deputy president Norman Mkhonza pledged his party’s support to Israel, saying: “There is no middle ground in this battle.
“We are neither shy nor confused, we always support Israel. We support Israel unconditionally. Your pain is our pain.
“Our government and some confused Christians support the rhetoric of labelling Israel the apartheid state.”
The Patriotic Alliance’s Gayton Mckenzie said: “There is no political ideology supporting the killing and maiming of children, raping of women.
“I am deeply embarrassed by the position that my government has taken. Hamas is a terrorist organisation. It is unspeakable that President Ramaphosa is standing with the people who kill children and women.
“Hamas is not Palestine, don’t fall in the trap.”
Others who pledged support for Israel include Shembe leader Bishop Phakama Shembe, City of Joburg councillor Daniel Schay and Congress of the People leader Mosiuoa Lekota.